The dating scene can be tough. There’s nowhere that clearly outlines the dating rules or what or what not to do. There are so many events out there now where singles can mingle and meet each other in the hopes of coming across their dream match, but these can be crazily daunting and awkward as hell. That’s where ‘First Bakes’ steps in. I was invited here on behalf of Love Pop Ups London, it’s a new fun way to meet people with a little bit of friendly (or not so friendly) competition and some tasty treats.
The best way I can describe First Bakes would be a mix between The Great British Bake Off And speed dating. So whatever picture that creates in your mind, go with that.
First Bakes is run by the team at The Big London Bake, which is located at the back of The Castle pub, just a minute from Tooting Broadway Station. It’s set up in a huge marquee/tent, just like that one we’ve all seen on GBBO. And as well as running dating evenings, they also hold normal bake off evenings, but you can find out all about these on their WEBSITE.
Lucky for me, I was allowed to bring a friend with me (although they had to be male and single – something I have very few of) and so it was a little less scary when I arrived. But I probably only think that way because I’m a massive wimp. A lot of people turned up on their own and didn’t have a breakdown so hopefully if I were to do something like this again then I’d be happy to come without a chaperone.
We had a little outside area near the tent booked for us for the entirety of the evening. It was so cute, like a little hut, with a fire and grass-coated seating. We all met here before the tent opened and shared a glass of prosecco. This was a great idea as it meant that people could have a quick chat and get to know each other ever so slightly before we were run through the rules and regulations and the real fun began.
At this point it was evident that some of the male ticket holders weren’t going to show up. The organisers were so apologetic, even though it wasn’t their fault that a lot of men don’t think twice about how not coming even after purchasing a ticket may affect the rest of the group. This meant that instead of 10 girls and 10 guys, we actually only had 8 girls and 3 guys (one of whom was my friend) which was a little disappointing but we managed to make it work. And the two new guys that I met were lovely!
We had a sheet to fill out where you could write down the boy’s name and then tick whether you see them as a friend, would like to date them or if they’re not for you (they don’t find out exactly what you’ve put). They also have the same sheet and so :
2 x date = date.
2 x friend zone = friend zone.
1 x date + 1 x friend zone = friendzone.
Any combination with no = no.
We finished our prosecco as no alcohol is allowed in the baking tent, for obvious reasons. And then headed to the tents. Each girl picked their own workstation to work from and so we went and put our aprons and badges on, ready to bake up a storm.
We were then told that we’d be making a chocolate/caramel/compote tart, which we could choose the flavourings for. I panicked at this point as I’m known for having the most random combinations…My housemates often call my dinners plate buffets. First up I chose a coffee flavouring for the pastry of my tart (not sure why, I’m not the biggest coffee fan on the planet). There were loads of flavours to choose from, from various fruits to nuts and spices. And with that I set to work.
What’s meant to happen is that each girl stays where she is and the guys switch around every 9 minutes to help with each step of the baking process, but as there were 3 guys it meant that I had a male every 3 rotations or so. That’s fine by me as I found out during this that I’m a very bossy person in the kitchen.
We had instructions to follow – thank god. And so I mixed the butter and flour together to make a breadcrumby sort of substance before my first victim came to help me. He was immediately thrown into the deep end where I critiqued his egg cracking skills and we discussed a little about our lives before adding the rest of the ingredients and rolling out the pastry and lining the pastry tin. At this point I thought my tart might actually be good enough to rival that of Mary Berry’s.
I then pricked the pastry and put it in the oven to bake for 10-15 mins, unfortunately the boy that turned up at this point of my bake had to make do with creating shapes out of the excess dough rather than showing me what he was made of in the baking stakes. But this meant that we could just chat and get to know each other whilst keeping an eye on the pastry in the oven. Can’t be having a soggy bottom on the tart.
My pastry looked far better when I put it in, afterwards it was a little bit burnt and misshapen, it had bubbled in certain areas and a little bit fell off prematurely…I tasted it. There wasn’t an awful lot of coffee coming through but it wasn’t hugely unpleasant either! It was then half time and we all dispersed to the bar to find ourselves a drink before heading back into the tent for the second part.
The second part of the First Bakes evening saw me attempt to make a salted caramel AND a white chocolate ganache AND decorate my cake before the time was up. It was ambitious and I have no prior knowledge of any thing bake-y but I did my best… First up was the caramel, which I thought i did a fantastic job of if i say so myself, until I got to adding the salt. I got a bit salt happy and in the end it tasted a lot like seawater (but the texture was perfect and I managed not to burn it, that must get extra points, right?). The melted sugar was added to cream and butter to create a silky caramel which then created the bottom layer of my tart.
Next, it went even more pear-shaped. My glamorous assistant (will, my friend that I dragged along) didn’t listen to my (VERY CLEAR) instructions and poured a saucepan of cream and butter into the white chocolate for my ganache, it was meant to be the cream without the butter and so this was a slight disaster. He thought he had salvaged but yet when I poured the chocolate onto the caramel, it just sunk in and turned a gross yellow colour. At least I’ll know for next time that if you want a job doing properly…do it yourself. I didn’t have a huge amount of time to decorate my tart and so a few strawberry slices on the top sufficed before we all had to take our creations up to the judges. Just like the program.
I was a little embarrassed by just how professional some of the other tarts looked in comparison to my little mess, and there was such a range in flavours and toppings. It was all very exciting. And even more exciting was the fact that we got to chop them all up and take a little piece of each home with us to treat ourselves for all of our hard work. Including the amazing winning piece, which was amaaaazing. They won a branded wooden spoon and a jar of delicious looking caramel. Jealous.
Considering the turn out, I had a fantastic evening and would definitely return to first bakes. (Lucky for me they offered all of the girls 50% off their next visit for them and a friend where there will hopefully be a higher number of men). I’d also consider going for the normal Big London Bake as it was such a cool idea and I need to practice my culinary skills a little bit more, so what better way to do it here and have fun at the same time!